Spontaneous response on seeing this picture would be – “What a poignant photograph!” It evokes and floods our mind/heart with an emotional potpourri of sympathy, fear, helplessness, hopelessness, disgust, anger, challenge, compassion, dilemma, resolve, love, surrender, thankfulness and remembrance. While there can be an argument on the right action to “rectify” the situation, one cannot debate over the authenticity of human response on witnessing such a spectacle. For Siddhartha it even meant a journey to Buddhahood. As the dust of these emotions settles, my own introspection transports me to a voyage of experiential impressions……
I am standing in front of the mighty Niagara Falls. The sheer sight and sound of its graceful fury is awesome and humbling. The flowing water is casting a spell on me. The touristy surroundings are melting as my identity with the magnificence is manifesting effortlessly. My whole being is vibrating with a youthful exuberance, experiencing the climactic zenith of the water droplet ready to take the great tumble. But, alas, I am abruptly shaken out of this state by the painful impinging of flashing camera light-bulbs. As my eyes adjust slowly to my surroundings, I hear an excitement among the tourists pointing at the lighting display illuminating the falls. The clicking camera flashes going in unison try to capture this moment. I slowly walk away – for me the moment had just ended.
I walk into the hospital room where my friend had just been blessed with a baby boy. As I wade through the hospital room full of visitors to congratulate her, I notice that she is not fully conscious. I am told that since it was a caesarian delivery, she has been drugged to numb the pain. No sooner is this information conveyed, she turns over and readjusts her position in bed. In that very instant I feel a sharp pain piercing through my lower abdomen, pelvic and groin area. It lasts at most a few seconds but I am so absorbed in pain, experiencing in excruciating detail the feelings of my friend lying in bed in front of me. Before my legs buckle from the intensity of the pain, I come out of the state and collect myself just in time. My friend was writhing in pain comforted by the visitors. Amidst the sympathetic clicking tongues of her well-wishers, I spontaneously stretched my hand and stroked her hair ever so gently – there was a bonding that needed no acknowledgement or words – a divine oneness hard to describe.
The serenity of the placid lake in the picturesque Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania was pacifying my agitated mind. All the personal problems that had been drowning my mind with despondency thus far, now strangely, seemed to be loosening their grip over me. Not caring for my designer clothing, I sat down on the wet grass gazing thoughtlessly at the lake. As my vision defocused, I found myself staring at the empty space with the pristine blue sky in the backdrop. Out of the blue, came into my vision a divine vista of a molecular dance; tiny bundles of illumined energy were frolicking in front of my eyes. There was an obvious graceful gaiety in the motion of these lively beings. It was awesome to see them moving with such freedom, changing their direction at will, instantly and effortlessly. And their contact with each other was a heart-to-heart encounter that seemed to revitalize them. It was one big orgasmic orgy of delightful fun. I started to feel as if my whole body was harmoniously reverberating in tune with the vibrations of this cosmic dance. My individuality was melting into the oneness of this festive reality, as every ounce of me was imploding into the bigger Me. All of a sudden I felt a sharp pain ripping through me, cruelly shaking me out of the ecstatic state. As I strained to look around in the dimming dusk light, I saw a bird hunter come running into my vision. He picked up his catch that was lying helplessly in the grass, about 1000 ft in front of me. He raised the dead bird high in the air, celebrating his show of gamesmanship to me. Indeed he was an accomplished hunter who had mastered the art of aiming and clicking his shotgun. Wasn’t it ironic that he was inviting me to participate in this celebration, the very being whom his bullet had just wounded?
Scenes IV and V:
I am browsing the BBC website - the blazing headline announces, “Russian Submarine Sinks – Crew Feared Dead”. I read the painful details of how the drowning crew must have spent their last hours knowing that they were about to die. I am moved for a few moments trying to visualize their pain and suffering. Then, I point and click my mouse to the next news item on the website.
I am watching CNN on television and there is a breaking news – “A Singapore Airline crashes in Taiwan”. The news item catches my attention because I am slated to fly by the same airline in a few days. The video clip of the accident churns me from inside. The sight of wailing families makes me feel helpless for a few seconds. I am glad it was not my flight. Relieved, I point and click the remote of my television set, to watch the football game that I had been waiting for.
Scene – Live:
I am once again watching this picture of the rickshaw puller. My mind tries hard to grasp the feelings of this being through my mental and emotional faculties. And once again I remember how often, in the past, I simply had to do nothing – I would automatically be transported to be that I was witnessing. But now where is that identity? Can I not break through the barriers between this photo and me? Where is that nature’s gift of collapsing the distinction between you and me? Have I been swept by the relentless torrent of point and click happening all around me? Perhaps…
But the little innocent child in me is waiting with a sense of trusting expectation – this time to enter the photograph, squat huddled-up on my rickshaw waiting for the rain to come pouring down on my plastic sheet as I wonder why this person out there is pointing and clicking his camera at me……